My wife Donna Lee and I spent this past weekend with our son, Loren, and his family down at Pismo Beach on the California coast north of Los Angeles. Loren is a NASCAR fan and there was a big race Saturday. Mid-race there was an interview with a spotter. "What's a spotter?" I asked. Loren said, "He's in constant communication with the driver. When there is a crash, smoke, or steam, and the driver can't see, the spotter guides him to stay high, go low or straight ahead. The driver couldn't negotiate through congested traffic without the spotter's help."
Later in the race Loren said, "Boy, that's a lot of stress on the engine." It was shortly after one of the driver's engines blew up. "What do you mean, Loren?" "That engine is running at almost 6,000 RPM's." I looked closer. The race car's tachometer was on the television screen.
Every car has a camera so we could see the race from the vantage point of the driver as they came around the track at between 120 and 140 miles per hour, literally within inches of the car to the right, left, and in front of them. It is apparent that the drivers do not allow their focus to be distracted from their purpose. Their purpose - pass the car in front of them and win the race. Sub-goals - minimize damage to their car, drive in compliance with the NASCAR code of ethics, support their team members for maximum success in the race, and lead laps to achieve the seasons' top ranking.
There is much more to the NASCAR race game than I understand. I am certain of this - successful drivers are dominated by a purpose. That purpose looms so large that they don't get caught up in drama - "That car is too close to me", "Why did he do that?", "That's not how I would do it".
For your teams, your crews, to be successful, they must have this same commitment to purpose that dominates their attention, a purpose larger than their daily tasks. Without a clearly defined purpose held in mind, they will easily, naturally get pulled into the drama of "Who's in my space?", "What might happen?", "What happened last week?". The compulsion to get caught up in the drama of calamity, emergencies, or tragedies will keep us from achieving excellence with our lives.
Your job as an empowering leader is to help ensure that your team is on purpose. Ensure their easy to read instrument panel tells their speed and how much stress is on the "engine". Provide a spotter who tells them how to negotiate when they need help and direction through their challenges. Make sure a pit crew keeps their equipment running properly and the computer, accounting, engineering, etc support they need so they are back on track. Don't ask them to sit and wait to be refueled or have tires replaced. Make sure you are consistently directing attention to the purpose of the organization, and how close you are to winning the race.